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UNC men's basketball back in the win column with 91-71 victory over Clemson

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UNC junior guard Caleb Love (2) dribbles the ball up the court during the men’s basketball game against Clemson on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023 at the Dean E. Smith Center.

The North Carolina men’s basketball team (16-9, 8-6 ACC) defeated Clemson (18-7, 10-4), 91-71, in the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday afternoon.

What happened?

The Tar Heels went four minutes without a field goal while Clemson center PJ Hall connected on a pair of 3-pointers to build an early 8-2 Tiger lead. Fifth-year forward Leaky Black and senior forward Armando Bacot both scored inside, but Clemson guard Chase Hunter hit a mid-range jumper to maintain the Tigers’ lead.

Black hit the Tar Heels’ first 3-pointer to cut the lead to 10-9, and both teams’ benches checked in early on. First-year forward Jalen Washington immediately hit a tightly contested baseline mid-range jumper, but Clemson forward Hunter Tyson sank a long three from the top of the key to give Clemson a 15-11 lead.

With seconds waning off the shot clock, sophomore guard D’Marco Dunn hit a tough step-through off the glass out of the media timeout. After a defensive stop, Dunn recorded his second assist on a smooth bounce pass to Washington inside, who scored the two-hand dunk.

The three bench player rotation got the starters going. Junior guard Caleb Love hit back-to-back threes, giving UNC a 22-17 lead and forcing Clemson to call a timeout. Out of the break, Hall wasted no time in scoring on Bacot inside, followed by a baseline mid-range jumper over Bacot.

Love and junior guard RJ Davis both hit threes to build a solid nine-point lead, but Hunter and Clemson forward Ian Schieffelin also hit threes. Junior wing Puff Johnson hit an open corner three off a Love assist. Davis drove in and dumped it off to Bacot for an emphatic jam to close out the first half with a 42-33 UNC lead.

The Tar Heels didn’t make a substitution for the first seven minutes of the second half, with Davis and Love spearheading the offense for four threes on 14 combined points in that span. With all its starters on the floor, UNC outscored Clemson 20-10 before Washington came back off the bench.

From there, the Tar Heels closed out the game with solid two-way play, holding Clemson to 28 points in the final 13 minutes and involving their bench on the offensive end, with Johnson scoring five points.

Who stood out? 

Love played arguably his best game of the season, scoring 23 points and dishing out five assists on an efficient 7-12 shooting and 6-9 3-point shooting in 34 minutes of play.

Davis and Bacot also contributed significantly to the offense, with Davis scoring 17 points and Bacot recording 19 points while grabbing 11 rebounds.

Hall led the Tigers in scoring with 18 points on 7-13 shooting.

When was it decided?

The match was decided when UNC’s starters outscored Clemson 20-10 to open up the second half. With Love and Davis firing on all cylinders, the Tigers couldn’t keep pace with the Tar Heels’ fast-paced offense and newfound energy from a home crowd.

Why does it matter?

It was a much-needed win for North Carolina, who previously dropped three straight games to Pittsburgh, Duke and Wake Forest. Although Clemson isn’t ranked, the Tigers sit near the top of the ACC with a 10-4 record in conference play. 

To secure a home win against No. 19 Miami on Monday, the Tar Heels will need to build upon their success to make a late-season push.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will play No. 19 Miami at home on Monday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. 

@danielhwei

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@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com


Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.